If you woke up tomorrow and ran a marathon, how would you fare? It's highly doubtful that you would successfully run the 26.2 miles without months of training, drills, and exercises.
Business Continuity / Case studies
Serko has become the software of choice for travel management firms and their corporate clients globally.
It allows firms to book and modify their own travel arrangements while still accessing the discount fares offered through travel agents.
Computers fail and when they do they can become one of the most costly experiences a CIO will oversee; and yet, they are also one of the most ignored, that is, until they occur.
Incident managers are the IT professionals who are given the task of restoring service in the event of an unplanned outage. Unplanned IT outages are known events that occur at unknown times. Organisations often fail to focus on what it is their incident management teams actually do to restore service and they fail to focus on the inventory of unplanned outages they handle in order to optimise the services of the former, or to understand the value of the latter.
Earlier this month, Gmail, the popular email service provided by Google, experienced a service outage that left some users without their email for 24 hours. Some of the users who were affected Aug. 15 included customers of Google Apps, Google's software as a service (SaaS) suite that includes Gmail, calendar, documents & spreadsheets, instant messaging and wikis.
If not planned in a careful way and overseen with vigilance, IT systems can easily grow into complicated beasts that are hard to manage, overly expensive and, ultimately, a roadblock to corporate success. For many firms, simplifying their systems is the key to ensuring that IT is more of a help than a hindrance. Winnipeg-based furniture manufacturer Palliser Furniture has been undertaking its own simplification process for the last three years. CIO Jason Bergeron talks about the difficulties involved and his team's successes.
CIO: Can you put into words how difficult it is to keep IT simple?
It was a normal Monday batch process at a well-respected global bank - until, that is, a critical back-office system failed. At first, IT administrators took it in stride. This wasn't the only time they'd had to recover lost data. But soon it became clear something more ominous was occurring: the bank's multi-terabyte database had become corrupted.
The administrators tried to switch to the hot offsite backup. No luck: it had mirrored the corruption. In the IT world, the situation was beginning to spell 'crisis'. Applications teams and anyone else who could help had to suspend all priorities to focus on the failure. Despite best efforts, the target recovery time - four hours - came and went without a clue as to the problem's root cause or fix.
Around the table
* John Ansley, informatics head, Asia-Pacific, Roche Pharmaceuticals
Large organisations are by nature complex, but over the years circumstances have conspired to add layer upon layer of complexity to how businesses are structured and managed.
Well-intended responses to new business challenges; globalisation, emerging technologies and regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, to name a few, have left us with companies that are increasingly ungovernable, unwieldy and underperforming. In many, more energy is devoted to navigating the labyrinth than to achieving results.
Orson Welles’ 1941 classic Citizen Kane, regarded by many to be the best film of all time, features a party scene in which the hat worn by an extra disappears and reappears in subsequent shots. Films generally have storyboards, scripts and continuity managers. Businesses often aren’t so fortunate and a lack of business continuity planning (BCP) can be severe, even catastrophic.
Perhaps the starkest example of this is Swedish mobile phone company Ericsson. It appeared to be a relatively minor 10-minute fire caused by lightning that in March 2000 struck a New Mexico electronic chip-making plant belonging to Dutch firm Philips. But in a chip-making environment required to be clinically clean and dust free, that fire was catastrophic. After failing to find an alternative supplier, Ericsson reported a loss of over $2 billion to its mobile phone division for the year and the company that had once been a market-leader was dismissed by the Economist as an “also-ran”.
Even as the headlines regularly scream disaster, IT executives in Asia are struggling to guarantee 100 per cent uptime, or to confidently demonstrate the financial return from properly planning for the worst.
According to Eugene Wee, research manager for IDC's Asia-Pacific IT Services Research, many Asia-Pacific business executives have the mentality that investing in business continuity planning (BCP) is unnecessary because nothing untoward has yet happened. "Often it takes a jolt to a company to realise the importance of investing in business continuity and disaster recovery," he says.
When Noble Coker, then CIO at Hong Kong Disneyland was asked if he would like to transfer to an operational role at the theme park, his last concern was to find a successor. He already had someone in mind.
She was an internal candidate. Emily Chan had proven leadership capabilities, with good technical experience in both applications and infrastructure. She had already been nurtured, and screened by the management team and human resources (HR) department.